By Murray Sease

Mary Burrell

Winding through the sprawling suburban neighborhoods at New Riverside between Bluffton and Pritchardville, lies a pretty cream colored home that contains a creative surprise! It houses the well organized art studio belonging to Mary Burrell, a very talented paint and pencil virtuoso.

When I went to interview her on a recent almost-spring day, she met me at her bright blue front door which gives a clue to her cheerful personality and artistic disposition. Immediately I was greeted by Stanley, a sweet black lab who rules the household with his big smile and wagging tail. Mary lives here with her husband Mark, Stanley, and Mia the studio cat who sat comfortably in her window perch for our interview.

Mary came to Bluffton from New City NY with Mark, who is in the golf course business, seven years ago and became thoroughly immersed in the local art scene. She comes from a big family with an artistic mother and sister, and has been drawing and painting since she was a small child. Her family owned and ran health food stores. Mary managed wholesale greenhouses and garden center in New York where she obtained retail experience and a background in nutrition and gardening. She is a certified Master Gardener – and the botanical inspiration is clear in many of her drawings and paintings.

Primarily self-taught, Mary is always looking for new venues to explore.  Her favorite medium is pencil, with which she has developed her own technique by working in many layers.  She also enjoys working with watercolor pencil, watercolor paints, and acrylic. As well as plants and flowers her favorite subjects seem to be animals. She has a rare talent of capturing the essence of the animal through her incredible detailed rendering of the eyes, fur, feathers, and scales. Not limited to living creatures, she captures the nostalgia of an old pickup truck, and the magnificence of a marble sculpture in pencil with complete precision. In her words “I have built a collection of work that is known for its distinctive texture and shading with attention to detail. Drawing is a form of meditation for me, and oddly enough, the more intense the drawing the more enjoyable.”

In addition to blessing the local scene with her drawings and paintings, Mary is a skilled instructor, especially adept at leading children into a love of art. She now leads the childrens’ program at the Society of Bluffton Artists and no doubt will have generations of homeschoolers, after school, and summer camp kids that will remember her fondly for instilling in them an appreciation of art. In fact, in her studio are bins, drawers and shelves all devoted to children’s art supplies.

As for Mary’s own supplies – they are as neat as a pin. Pencils and paints are organized perfectly, matts and papers are stacked and filed by color and size. Her favorite pencils are worn to nubs from hours of detailed use. The studio is peaceful and quiet, Stanley and Mia always close by in comfortable silence. They seem to be keeping a close eye on everything that happens here and whispered to me that they are so grateful that Mary works at home!

Mary Burrell is one of six artist/owners of the cooperative La Petite Gallerie in Old Town Bluffton. She generally works there on Sundays when she welcomes visitors, both human and canine, with a smile and comprehensive knowledge of art. Please visit soon to see Mary’s excellent work!


Murray Sease is a fellow artist at La Petite Gallerie, 56 Calhoun Street, Bluffton, SC.